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Jeb Burton eager to continue family tradition

March 31, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com



Jeb Burton eager to continue family tradition

MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- On Saturday, John Edward Burton IV will take perhaps the biggest step so far in what he hopes will ultimately result in him taking over the family business.

His office already comes with windows, although it's a little cramped -- and requires a helmet and a six-point harness.

"Once we got a chance to practice and I was seventh, it gave me a lot of confidence. I know I can run with these guys now."

--JEB BURTON


_______________________

"He's definitely ready for the challenge. Jeb has proven himself time and time again as a race car driver."

--WARD BURTON

When Jeb Burton makes his Camping World Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway, his dreams of running in one of NASCAR's national series -- like his father, Ward, and uncle Jeff -- will become a reality. And he, for one, can't wait.

"When I got about 12 years old, that's when I started to want to race," Jeb Burton said Friday. "I've been around racing ever since I was a little kid. I'm really excited about this opportunity and I'm ready for the race."

Martinsville Speedway was the logical stepping-off point for the 19-year-old. It's a track on which he's had success in late models. And it's a short drive from home for the Virginia native.

Ward Burton gave the No. 27 Chevrolet a shakedown run at Daytona and finished seventh. Now it's time for Jeb to get behind the wheel and start getting experience, beginning with Martinsville this weekend and following that with the mile oval at Rockingham and then Kansas, the first intermediate track of the season.

"The schedule kind of worked in a good way for a lot of the young guys," Ward Burton said. "I don't know if they meant to do it, but they did a really good job of the second race being Martinsville, then going to Rockingham and then Kansas. Because after you run Kansas, you've got a half and a mile under your belt."

While Jeb's primary concern is getting acclimated to the truck and the track, Ward's goal is to be available for consultation -- but to stay out of the way as much as possible. Dad watched a portion of Friday's second practice from atop Tony Stewart's hauler in the Martinsville infield.

For the most part, Ward Burton said the advice he's tried to give his son is more an overview than any specifics about running at Martinsville.

"I talked to him about first taking care of the vehicle, hitting your marks and getting up to speed as quickly as you can but give the radial tires a minute to figure out what you think the truck needs.

"At the same time, behind the scenes, I'm talking to other guys who are going to wind up talking to him, because sometimes it's easier for a son to hear it from somebody else other than their dad. From dad, they look at it as criticism, versus being constructive."

Jeb Burton admitted to a touch of the butterflies before he strapped on the helmet Friday morning. But once he got on the track, things went well. His lap times improved throughout the session and he would up in the top 10 by the end of practice.

However, the competitive nature of the business -- and of the driver -- left him with unrealized expectations when he returned to the track later in the day.

"When I first got in [the truck], I was kind of nervous," Jeb Burton said. "Once we got a chance to practice and I was seventh, it gave me a lot of confidence. I know I can run with these guys now.

"I kind of screwed up the qualifying lap there at the end of [the second] practice. That's why we were 18th. I think we're a top-10 truck."

* Speeds: Practice 1 | Practice 2

Standing in the pits before the trucks hit the track, Ward Burton seemed almost as nervous as his son. You could tell the obvious pride in knowing that the next generation was about to launch what hopefully will be a very successful career.

After all, when your dad is the 2002 Daytona 500 champion, you've got some big shoes to fill.

"He's definitely ready for the challenge," Ward Burton said. "Jeb has proven himself time and time again as a race car driver and learning how to work with the team, giving them the right information. He's as good a raw talent as I've ever been around -- and I'm not just saying that because he's my son.

"It's a lot of pressure on him right now. As soon as we can get at it, and the more of these type events he does, he'll settle right on down and he'll be fine."